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The End of the Denim Era?




liz gunnBy Liz Gunn || I saw a headline today about declining denim sales. One news outlet interprets the six percent decline in denim sales coupled by the seven percent increase in yoga and active wear sales to mean that denim could be on the way out.

Sorry, but no. Here is why.

I have never been a huge fan of denim. Ironically, I have no less than twenty (yes, twenty!) pairs of designer jeans in my closet. Like most women I have a handful that are my favorites, but it’s proof that clearly I have been on the hunt for the perfect pair. I have yet to find the perfect pair, because like the perfect child of the perfect husband – it doesn’t exist.

Women do not wear jeans because they are comfortable. They wear them because it is what’s in style. They wear this pair because it makes them look skinny. They wear that pair because it makes their butt look smaller.

Yoga pants and active wear, however, are both comfortable and (can be) flattering when selected properly. But you can’t wear yoga pants to your kid’s school play, to a nice dinner, to happy hour with the girls…I mean I guess you can, but please don’t.

Yoga pants serve a purpose, and it isn’t necessarily to do yoga. They’re easy and comfortable. Jeans serve a different purpose. One cannot be replaced by another.

My kneejerk reaction to this story is that the increase in yoga pants and active wear sales is due to their rising prices and people’s increased willingness to pay those prices. Have you ever heard of Lululemon Athletica? They sell yoga pants at an average ticket price of about a hundred dollars. And they sell a lot of them. You know why? Because it has become increasingly trendy to own a pair of high end yoga pants.

Fifteen years ago, the thought of spending a hundred dollars on workout pants would have sent people running for the hills. Surely the sky must be falling! Thirty years ago, the same thing applied to denim.

But the industry was able to change people’s mindset, and in turn change their buying habits. Jeans were no longer seen as something for cowboys or men working construction. They managed to make jeans sexy, and the rest is history.

Clearly the active wear industry took a page from that same playbook. Good for them! Will they replace the denim industry? No. Are people buying less denim because they’re buying more yoga pants? Doubtful. In today’s material world, where people buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like, I assure you that women who can afford pricey jeans and yoga pants will have both. Mark my word.

Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, author, businesswoman, travel enthusiast, food snob, fashionista, lover of great wine and the No. 1 Gamecock football fan … ever. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.